COLLIER (JOHN PAYNE) Collection of twelve autograph letters signed, to various correspondents, including Dickens's friend John Forster, 1835-1880
Lot 26*
COLLIER (JOHN PAYNE) Collection of twelve autograph letters signed, to various correspondents, including Dickens's friend John Forster, 1835-1880
Sold for £5,375 (US$ 6,550) inc. premium

Lot Details
Collection of twelve autograph letters signed, to various correspondents, including Dickens's friend John Forster (misspelt), Herman Merivale, Swynfen Jervis, F.A. Carrington ("...Any body who gives me a hint, to supply an omission, does me a favour..."), C. Paine ("...You shall be informed when I embark in any fresh reprinting project..."), H.J. Hall ("...In a few days you will receive my Reprint of 'England's Helicon' Part 2..."), Samuel Timmins ("...I require pre-payment only to avoid infringement of the law respecting publication..."), the bookseller [Edward] Walford ("...All success to you!..."), and a less-esteemed confrere ("...If you have a good business, you will ruin it by such peremptory notes as you annex to your bill..."); together with a letter to Collier by Frederic Madden, Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum ("...All that I did in regard to Shakespeare's Will, was to revise a proof of it, set up for Rodd, by the Original in the Prerog. Office. I have the proof still by me & shall be happy to shew it to you..." [the letter undated but presumably prior to Halliwell's edition of 1851, itself based on Rodd's suppressed transcript]), and a letter by J.O. Halliwell himself (see below); together with an inscribed offprint of 'The Crimes and Repentance of John Payne Collier' by Samuel Schoenbaum, TLS, 26 June 1969, some 20 pages, the letter to Merivale laid down, 4to, 8vo and 16mo, Maidenhead, Kensington and elsewhere, 1835-1880


  • In the words of Samuel Schoenbaum: 'No extenuation can be offered for Collier. He forged in deadly earnest, for glory, and staked his reputation on his "discoveries"... The pity of it is that Collier was an excellent scholar whose genuine contributions to Shakespeare studies and English stage history would have assured him the fame and honour to which he aspired' (Shakespeare's Lives, 1991, p.245). Particularly intriguing is the evasive letter by Collier to the economist and civil servant Herman Merivale, dated 12 December 1855: "I missed the only train that could bring me to Devonshire House by the hour I had named. I hope, and believe, that you were not disappointed in your main object – that of seeing the book again... The clock by which I usually am regulated was wrong, and that threw me out... I hope you will make any use of such points as appear to you to deserve notice whether discovered by yourself or pointed out by me. The more public such matters are made the better. Have you seen the voluminous notes I sent to Mr Forster?... In two columns, they give the old text and the new, without one word of comment or explication, so that each emendation speaks only for itself...". This would appear to refer to the 'Perkins Folio', the most notorious of Collier's forgeries, being an annotated copy of Shakespeare's Second Folio. Collier gave the book to the Duke of Devonshire, 'in whose library it eluded prying eyes: the Duke did not know where it was, his librarian refused to exhibit it' (Schoenbaum, p. 261). The Duke suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered in 1854 and died in January 1858. The following year Collier's friend Frederic Madden was able to examine it at the British Museum and so prove Collier's imposture. Merivale nevertheless remained a supporter and maintained that, while at Devonshire House, the Folio had always been accessible (for his part in the affair, see C.M. Ingleby, Complete View of the Shakespere Controversy, 1861; see also A. Freeman and J. I. Freeman, John Payne Collier: Scholarship and Forgery in the Nineteenth Century, 2004).

    Also included in the lot is an autograph letter by Collier's fellow scholar and quondam victim J.O. Halliwell (who himself had a reputation for purloining books) to an unidentified correspondent, writing in 1856 when suspicions were growing as to Collier's activities, discussing "a deed relating to a [Peter] Shakespeare who kept a tavern near the old Globe Theatre" ("...anxious for the publication of any new fact at all bearing upon Shakespeare, & its due proof of authenticity amidst the unhappy forgeries now unfortunately perplexing half the Shakespearian readers... My enthusiasm however on the subject is too great not to seek most anxiously for every whisper...").
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  1. Simon Roberts
    Specialist - Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs
    Montpelier Street
    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
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